A Pennsylvania municipal authority has filed a lawsuit to prevent a Marcellus Shale-related drilling project from proceeding until more watershed protections are in place.
The Brockway Borough Municipal Authority in Jefferson County is suing Houston-based Flatirons Development LLC, which holds a sedimentation and erosion control permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The lawsuit claims that the state did not assess the environmental impact or public water resource protections required to permit the gas well drilling operations of Flatirons. Also named in the lawsuit are Force Inc. of Indiana, PA, which is building the impoundment area; and New Growth Resources, based in Kane, PA, a timber contractor charged with harvesting timber to prepare for the impoundment.
The municipal authority and Flatirons had reached agreement in August to develop 4,000 acres of watershed land in Elk and Jefferson counties. However, the lawsuit, filed in the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court, claims that the borough’s water supply is endangered by Flatirons’ plans to clear-cut 23 acres of forest and build a 10 million-gallon wastewater impoundment in two environmentally sensitive watersheds.
The lawsuit cites concerns over potential water pollution from clear-cutting the land and from hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) fluid from future drilling operations. The project constitutes a “public nuisance,” the lawsuit claims.
The municipal authority seeks a court-ordered injunction to prohibit Flatirons from building any impoundments, wells, pads or pipelines until Flatirons demonstrates that the water supply will be protected.
The lawsuit also asks the court to require Flatirons to conduct a groundwater study to assure that the water supply will not be polluted; prepare and implement a site-specific sedimentation and erosion control plan as well as a stormwater management plan; give the municipal authority 120 days’ notice of any construction activity on its property; and submit copies of applications for any permits to the authority when they are submitted to regulatory agencies.
The municipal authority also asks the court to prohibit Flatirons from cutting any trees on the property; engage in construction within 2,500 feet of any municipal well or surface impoundment; remove all drill cuttings, hydrofracking material or waste material, including brine generated by its gas-drilling operations; develop a contingency plan for addressing pollution of any borough water supply; and conduct water quality monitoring on a monthly basis by sampling wells and reservoirs.
The Brockway Borough Municipal Authority serves 2,200 customers in north central Pennsylvania. It has access rights to surface and groundwater in the Whetstone Branch and Rattlesnake Creek watersheds.
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